đź“° Meaningful Perception | Meta-Rationality

Author: David Chapman

Full Title: Meaningful Perception | Meta-Rationality

URL: https://metarationality.com/perception

Highlights from February 25th, 2021.

Because most of life is routine, and most objects and situations are mostly familiar, and because we’ve practiced our visual skills from early childhood, they suffice for most tasks, and go unnoticed. Needing to learn new visual skills is unusual for adults.
Much of what you see, you see as something. You don’t see a textured black region of the visual image, you see a loudspeaker. Or a raven. It’s already a loudspeaker or a raven when you first experience it. Bottom-up vision has done that work for you.
What you see something as depends on your knowledge, context, and purposes. If you are familiar with moussaka and you see it on a plate in a restaurant, you’ll probably see it as moussaka. If you aren’t, you’ll probably see it as a mushy casserole. You can’t see it as moussaka, because that’s not part of your Ontology.
Because perception evolved to enable purposeful activities, most of the time it reveals meaningful functions and potentials. Those are a matter of Ontology: not just categories, but also how you separate the world into objects; what properties you see them having; and how they relate to each other.
It’s not just objects, but also intentions, actions, events, environments, and possibilities. In context, you see someone kneeling as worship; someone running out of a store as shoplifting; and items on a restaurant table as a dinner setting, not a silverware collection.
Routine activity is easy because most of the time we can see what to do. We see affordances—cues as to what actions are possible, and what their effects will be. When it’s time for a snack, looking around inside the refrigerator reveals what you feel like eating.